Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Monday, 28 september 2015 | POLITICO

English

7 takeaways from the Catalonia election

Goodbye Madrid: Catalans vote for an ‘adios’ to Spain.



POLITICO
 
28-09-2015.-
 
By JAN MAROT

 
BARCELONA — Only hours after the polls closed in Catalonia on September 27, it is clear that we are feeling the rumble of tectonic change. This promises to rock not just Spain, but to throw the European Union into a state of ferment at a time when Brussels has, to put it mildly, much too much on its plate already.
 
Here are seven takeaways from the vote in Catalonia.
 
1 This is a vote for secession from Spain
Catalonians have made a clear choice in their regional elections. With a level of participation so historically huge that they even ran out of ballots, 77.4 percent of the electorate voted. This is a record in democratic, post-Franco Spain. The secessionist coalition “Together for Yes” — Junts Pel Si —obtained 39.6 percent of the vote and thus 62 seats in the Catalan regional parliament. Together with the pro-independence leftist CUP (10 seats) they can form a government with a clear absolute majority of 72 seats (in a house of 135), but not in votes (48.1 percent). It’s also a huge strategic victory for President Artur Mas, who could now lead the Catalans to independence with little scope for compromise: After all, independence was the cornerstone of his manifesto. A new autonomous status within Spain will not be enough.
 
2 The Roadmap for an express-divorce says (at most) “18 months to go”
This is what Mas and his coalition for secession have set as their deadline for Catalan independence. Immediately, they will start to write a Catalan constitution — “the most glorious pages of Catalan history,” promised Junts Pel Si candidates celebrating their victory. “It was a clear plebiscite,” added Mas, the proud winner. But euphoria apart, since Barcelona and Madrid have no common denominator, mediation is needed. Swiss Members of Parliament have proposed that neutral Switzerland play midwife. Brussels, as well as fellow EU member states, will have to put Catalonian independence on the agenda.
 
3 A decisive and bitter defeat for Madrid
This is a massive jolt for Spain, and, foremost, for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his People’s Party (Partido Popular), who obtained only eleven seats in the Catalan parliament. Their strategy of spreading fear of the consequences of secession among Catalan citizens failed, as the results indicate. Madrid is running out of options, and should now allow a formal referendum in Catalonia, letting the Catalonians themselves decide on the language of the question. Rupture may not necessarily be the final outcome, as we have seen in Scotland. Nevertheless negotiation, and real dialogue, is key, beyond populism and stubbornness. But when and by whom? Rajoy, it would appear, has disqualified himself in the eyes of the Catalan public; and he could be replaced soon after Spain’s general elections in December.
 
4 The European Union is formally bound to exclude Catalonia
Since there is no EU roadmap for the independence of regions within member states, a swift secession of Catalonia would automatically exclude the new nation from the European Union and the euro. However, looking at the economic strength of Catalonia, as well as its democratic, hugely pro-European society, it is likely that neither Brussels, nor many EU-member-states, would have the appetite to punish a Catalan Republic. There will be vigorous pressure for compromise, and creative solutions. As far as nationality is concerned, Spain’s constitution highlights that citizens “living abroad” can keep their Spanish passport. Thus, it is likely that the citizens of a Catalan Republic — even without membership of the EU — would still keep their EU-citizenship in an unprecedented anomaly.
 
5 Barcelona’s league of its own
What will happen to Spain’s soccer Liga? Will soccer fans be bored to death in upcoming seasons by an all-dominant Barça in a Catalan league? More importantly, FC Barcelona would lose a lot of income from La Liga broadcasting rights, as the president of Spain’s Sports Council Miguel Cardenal  has indicated. Barça’s mainly pro-independence presidency and players would still like to keep playing in La Liga. Maybe a compromise is possible — and desirable, too, for the sake of Barça’s fans, and soccer fans the world over.
 
6 Legal options against Catalan secession are few
For Madrid to challenge the Catalan elections or President Mas via the Constitutional court would not be a fruitful strategy. But Rajoy changed national security law just weeks ahead of the Catalan elections, allowing for central government intervention in regional policy. Madrid has the “nuclear” option to relieve regional presidents from office. Another option would be a “third way”: A reform of the Spanish state into a federal nation of hugely autonomous regions, with equal rights and obligations for all regions — and not as now, with Basques and Catalans enjoying more autonomy than others.
 
7 New emerging political forces are here to stay
The free-market, populist Ciudadanos, with 18 percent of the vote, won a healthy 25 seats. In 2012 they had nine. They finished in second place, with the most convincing pro-unity-with-Spain campaign. But the established parties of the left and right — the Socialists and the People’s Party, respectively — are facing severe losses in voter support and confidence. The pro-Spain Catalan Socialists (PSC) managed to stave off collapse with 16 seats, down from 20 in 2012. But not Rajoy’s People’s Party, which is licking its wounds with just 11 seats, down from 19. The future looks grim for Rajoy and his party. It’s hugely difficult to win a Spanish general election without achieving at least a decent result in Catalonia.
 
Jan Marot is a freelance correspondent for Spain, Portugal, and Northern Africa.




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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia